After picking up volleyball for the first time as a sport in his Junior season at Andover, Caleb Blackburn-Johnson ’22 quickly established himself on the court through his high jumps to block and hit shots. As a Co-Captain of Andover Boys Volleyball, Blackburn-Johnson focuses on reaching out to teammates to give advice while also creating a high spirited atmosphere for the team.
Following in his older brother, Isaac Blackburn-Johnson’s ’18 footsteps, he made the varsity team as a Junior despite having no prior experience on the court. He credits his Senior captains his first year for passion for volleyball, as their leadership cultivated a strong team culture.
“I was on varsity my [Junior] year and that year was really good. Our two Seniors, [Neil Simpson ’19] and [Clay Briggs ’19], were amazing leaders. I think volleyball is one of the biggest team sports because in order for me to get a hit, there has to be a good pass and a good set, and we all have to play defense together. Having such a tight team where we are all helping each other out really made me fall in love with the sport,” said Blackburn-Johnson.
During his time on the team, Blackburn-Johnson has proven to be a forcible presence as a jumper and has earned the nickname, Caleb ‘Gravity isn’t Real’ Blackburn-Johnson, according to Head Coach Alexander Svec.
Svec said, “His Junior year, Caleb told me that gravity is just a belief, kind of like the earth being round. I didn’t believe him until I saw him jump. Sometimes he’ll jump for a hit and won’t come back down until a few points later. It is exceedingly difficult for teams to play against a player like Caleb for whom the theory of general relativity doesn’t exist.”
Blackburn-Johnson noted his hitting and blocking skills as being his best attributes on the court, but acknowledged that he still has room for improvement when playing defense.
“I think my best skills are hitting and blocking. I love jumping up there and getting high to hit the ball or block it. I would say that is probably the thing I am best at while I am still working on my defense and serving. I am working on everything but those are the two skills I am most confident with,” said Blackburn-Johnson.
According to Sam Rodgers ’23, Blackburn-Johnson acts as a mentor and uses his voice while playing to lead the team.
“Caleb is a really good leader. He is very vocal on the court and specifically for me, he has consistently given me different tips on the court. He does that for everyone with small, [giving] little tips here and there which makes him a great captain,” said Rodgers.
Blackburn-Johnson shared his excitement to be on the court after missing the previous season despite the absence of a championship game due to the Covid-19 pandemic. He highlighted the team chemistry aspect of the season as practicing with his teammates are some of the most memorable moments.
Blackburn-Johnson said, “Our goals are to get better and win obviously. With Covid-19, we can’t play the teams we would normally play and have playoffs. In a normal season, the goal is always just to win the championship, but this year it is just to play well, win the games we have whether they are normal or abnormal, practice well everyday, and just have fun. Volleyball is a super fun sport, so we know practices are always going to be a really great time. We are all coming with a good attitude and working hard.”